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2012 Masters: Should Augusta National Admit IBM’s Ginni Rometty as First Female Member?

With golf’s biggest and most prominent tournament fast approaching, the most intriguing storyline, amazingly enough, has nothing to do with any of the sport’s brightest stars.

Sure, folks are talking about whether or not Tiger Woods deserves to be the favorite heading into the proceedings. And of course there is some chatter about whether we will ultimately see an epic showdown between Rory McIlroy and Woods. Yes, Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood and the rest of the gang always get their fair share of headlines.

However, the most fascinating Masters-related storyline we've seen thus far actually involves a sponsor.

One of Masters’ most well-known and recognizable partners, IBM, has consistently had its chief executive officer (CEO) invited to golf’s most exclusive club. The relationship between Augusta National Golf Club and IBM is so tight, in fact, that the company has a hospitality cabin near the 10th hole and its CEOs have traditionally been permitted to wear the club’s signature green blazers while on scene.

So why might that change this year? Well, since the club’s founding eight decades ago, Augusta National has never admitted a female member. And on Jan. 1 of this year, Ginni Rometty became the new CEO of IBM.

The obvious question now is: will Rometty, the first female leader of IBM in the company's 100-year history, also become the club’s first female member? Or will Augusta reject the CEO of one of its three big sponsors?

As noted by Bloomberg, “Augusta will have to break tradition either way.”

Predictably, folks have already begun taking sides on this matter. Proponents of upholding Augusta’s traditions point out that a private club should be permitted to do whatever it wants. Folks on the other side of the spectrum, however, wonder aloud whether this sort of discrimination would be as acceptable if it involved race.

Mind you, it wasn’t until 1990 that the first black man (Rob Townsend) got an invitation to become a part of this exclusive club.

Either way, regardless of what side of the debate you come down on, this much is for certain: with a week to go before the start of the Masters, the most captivating storyline surrounding the tournament has nothing to do with what will actually happen on the golf course.

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